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The Salesman – Movie Review

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The Salesman – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

A large reason for the success of Asghar Farhadi’s film A Separation is its depiction of a middle-class home life in Iran, something we in the Western world are not accustomed to seeing in our media. The Salesman continues that setting here and while the film is a little slower, it still presents a prime example of this new wave of Iranian cinema. Farhadi has a play-like structure in his work, which makes the use of a theatre company here fitting. Family dilemmas are similarly pivotal as we see how a confrontation affects the characters in the film and what drives one to make such decisions.

Farhadi makes it fairly clear early on what he wishes to explore in the film, when we see a theatre company mount a production of Death of a Salesman. However, he knows not to make the connections between the Lomans and the Etesamis too on-the-nose and obvious. The film jumps between the husband and wife’s story arcs, showing how each react differently to a tragedy that affects them both, albeit the wife more directly. One understand the husband’s need to explore the issue and find the person responsible, but there is an aspect where he takes it too far. It’s those same moral questions which made A Separation so riveting.

However, it is the scenes of the husband and wife, Emad and Rana, going through their day to day activities that present the most compelling moments. Story-wise, they slowly build their characters and showcase how they confront the issues of the day. One extended sequence in which they move into a new apartment presents exactly that as they try to figure out the proper action when dealing with the previous owner’s abandoned possessions. The scenes of Emad in his teaching job also show how his attitude at work, on the stage and at home intermingle.

The final act is when The Salesman feels like it’s running a little too long. There’s a scary final shot Farhadi could have used to end things on a rather frightening note when showing revenge taken a step too far. However, he decides to unnecessarily extend the story, even thought it feels like his main point was made ages before. The final sequence does feel like a one-act play, befitting the professions of its main characters, but the more ambiguous ending may have been the best note to end on. This ending just drags on and doesn’t add much to develop these people as well as the first two thirds.

The Salesman isn’t quite as strong as A Separation, but it might not be fair to compare the two films, even if they do share certain elements in common. A Separation came and surprised many people and it’s a tough act to follow. Asghar Farhadi still has a clear understanding of the characters he writes and seeing Arthur Miller’s classic play in this new environment shows how certain themes are universal. The theatre scenes are almost fascinating in their own right for how we catch a glimpse at ways other countries may adapt such famous American source material. The Salesman marks another example of the continuing peek Iranian cinema offers us at their middle class families.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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